With an adoration for songwriting, Isabel Pless created a career in music from her childhood bedroom in Jericho, Vermont. From writing her first song at 12, to writing songs during the pandemic and taking them to the internet, Isabel is using her music as a cathartic outlet for expressing her feelings. In turn, she is creating music that her fanbase and beyond find extremely relatable through her deeply passionate lyrics. Currently a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts studying Linguistics, Isabel is now navigating her academics and balancing life in the music industry with over 105K+ followers on Tik Tok.
In “Call My Own,” the common desire for independence and ownership is placed front and center. Isabel’s clear voice weaves a story of self-discovery and longing over acoustic guitar, playful strings, and delicate harmonies. Her humbly candid lyrics narrate the struggle of craving a unique and exciting life during a period of forced stagnation— detailing everything from the billionaires going to space, to life at home with her family. With humor and subtle wisdom, “Call My Own” speaks to those longing for an adventure of their own.
In fifth grade, you took guitar lessons and became infatuated with the idea of being able to sing and play your favorite songs. What and/or who drew you to this facet of the arts?
Isabel Pless (IP): “I was always really drawn to music – I think it’s such a beautiful and unique way to express emotion and the human experience. I’m really fond of creative outlets where I can work through my experiences because I think it helps me understand myself and what’s happening to me a little bit better. I started writing and journaling when I was a kid, and then I was really motivated to learn guitar because I really loved Taylor Swift when I was younger (I still do). She was the only young woman writing all of her own songs and accompanying herself that I knew of at that level of stardom. I just loved that I could take somebody else’s melody and lyrics and put my own spin on it, I felt really inspired by it.”
Writing your first song at the age of 12, you began using music as a cathartic outlet to express your feelings. Was there a particular experience and/or happenstance that proved songwriting to be constructive when navigating the world at such a young age? How important is it for you to continue to express emotion through the music you create?
IP: “I remember finding it difficult to process complicated or negative emotions – like anger, grief, and jealousy – before I started songwriting. Once I wrote that first song, I realized that composing music was a really effective way for me to decompress and break down those feelings that were completely overwhelming. I could structure my thoughts in a satisfying and productive way, and add melody to further emphasize meaning. I also just love doing it – songwriting is so fun! So it’s useful as a tool for me to understand myself and my experiences, but also the process brings me a lot of joy.”
Having always been drawn to poetry, and being someone who has an adoration for songwriting, how are you able to leverage both in order to appeal to various audiences; visually and audibly?
IP: “I think of myself as a lyricist above all else, that’s my favorite part of songwriting. I like to toy with rhyme schemes and double meanings to see how much I can fit into a song. I think the folk-pop and indie sounds lend themselves very well to my lyrics since I place such heavy emphasis on storytelling. My songwriting specifically utilizes melodies to give gravity to my words. Of course, it isn’t like that for every artist and I’ll always give myself room to change and grow, but I think of music as an avenue to express my spoken thoughts and feelings.”
As a student of Wellesley College studying linguistics, how have you found this psychological faculty consciously and/or subconsciously lends itself to the melodies and lyrics you write?
IP: “Studying linguistics has really made me think hard about how my lyrics sound and the specific connotations behind what I’m saying. Phonetically, I use a lot of alliteration and similar vowel sounds because I like that rhythmic feel in my songs. It’s not something I think too hard about when I’m writing, but in the aftermath when I’m editing my lyrics I notice patterns arising. How we speak, how we word our sentences, and how we convey our ideas through language is important because our speech characterizes us – I’m just fascinated with how we can communicate through what we do say and what we don’t say. Hopefully, that comes across in my songwriting and lyrics specifically, I try to be purposeful with my words.”
How have you come to balance your student life with the want to make a career out of music?
IP: “It’s been a challenge for sure, it’s quite the balancing act. Last semester was tough because I was trying to juggle a full-time in-person class schedule, two jobs, and a music career. This semester I’ve learned to scale it back and now it’s a little bit easier to manage. I’m grateful that I’m in my final year of college – it would have been tough to have this happen during any of the prior years! I’ve just learned that I have to be patient with myself and that it’s okay (and actually very important) to take breaks. I don’t need to be productive all of the time.”
Social media presence has become increasingly important when trying to get one’s music to reach as many ears as possible. Having now amassed a TikTok audience of over 105,000+, tell us your own personal experience with using the platform to aid in growing as an up-and-coming artist.
IP: “I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am right now without TikTok. It’s how I was able to garner an audience that values and relates to my music. It also allows me to connect with people I would have never been able to interact with otherwise – it’s such a useful tool and platform to grow on. That being said, it’s definitely a bit of a killjoy sometimes. Trying to get the algorithm to work for you sucks – it’s not impossible, but it’s also not fun. It places such heavy emphasis on constant and fast production, which is really difficult as a musician. Meaningful art takes time and I wish that TikTok gave creators the space they need to work on their craft without feeling pressured. I hate explaining to people who want a song right at this very second, that it won’t be ready for at least a few months. So there are upsides and downsides– it’s an incredibly useful tool and sounding board as an up-and-coming independent artist, but it’s definitely demanding and draining.”
Breaking into the industry at such a young age as a female artist, what has the journey been like thus far? Do you have any advice for those that might not know where to begin, or may be too afraid to share their talent with the world?
IP: “It’s been interesting! I’ve learned more in these past 12 months about the music industry than I ever did in the previous 21 years of my life. My biggest piece of advice is to do your research and ask questions – the music industry can be a scary and predatory place, especially for young women, so don’t be afraid to reach out to others for advice or to consult online materials. I simply cannot tell you how many articles I have read about different kinds of royalties, contracts, labels, etc. But also, I think that if you have work that you’re proud of and that you want to share with the world, you should be able to. Post that TikTok! Make that YouTube video! There’s a delete button for a reason if you find that you regret it later. The internet is a neat place to be able to share your creations with others.”
In your latest single, “Call My Own,” the common desire for independence and ownership is placed front and center; narrating the struggle of craving a unique and exciting life during a period of forced stagnation. How do you feel a song such as this allows you to develop a better understanding of who are as a person, in turn, forge a plan of self-satisfaction?
IP: “I felt very stuck last year while doing online school from my childhood bedroom – I wrote a lot of songs about feeling like I was missing out on experiences and that the world was passing me by. The silver lining of that uncomfortable period is that I learned how much I value independence and freedom. Sometimes we have to live through the tough (and for me, claustrophobic) parts of life to discover what makes us happy, so that’s what I wrote this song about.”
A song that speaks to those longing for adventure, what is the greatest adventure you wish to experience?
IP: “Traveling! I really hope one day I’ll be fortunate enough to be able to visit different countries and continents – it’s something I’ve always dreamed about, but haven’t really had too many opportunities to do yet.”
What’s next for Isabel Pless following the release of the single?
IP: “A lot more music and live shows! Graduating in May! A move to Nashville in July! Lots of exciting things and events that I’m really looking forward to. I’m ecstatic that I get to continue to pursue music as a career.”
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